PASSION: Eradicating the Disease and Death Caused by Smoking Tobacco Cigarettes
1. How are you living your passion?
I have committed my life to eradicating the diseases and death that are caused by smoking tobacco cigarettes. I am doing this by providing access to and awareness about electronic cigarettes, a smoking alternative which numerous university studies have shown are not only vastly healthier alternatives to tobacco cigarettes, but have the highest success rate of any smoking cessation aid when used as a means to quit. They also do not come with the risks associated with some of the anti-smoking medications produced by global pharmaceutical companies, such as Champix, which carries an FDA warning due to its use being linked to depression, suicidal thoughts and other psychiatric illnesses.
I write about the mounting scientific evidence in favour of electronic cigarettes regularly on my website blog: http://genecigs.com.au/blog. Awareness is the first step toward a smokefree world. But because the act of using an e-cigarette so closely resembles the act of smoking in appearance (the devices are cigarette-shaped and produce vapour that looks like smoke), many organisations and anti-smoking lobbying groups cannot see past their face value. Because it looks like smoking, they conclude it must be as bad as smoking, despite the fact that there is no evidence e-cigarettes being the cause of a single illness or death.
These misguided groups make it very difficult for proponents of e-cigarettes to get the Australian public aware that these devices even exist. eBay, for instance, does not allow them to be sold on its site. Australian federal law does not allow the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine, forcing consumers to import nicotine fluid for their e-cigarettes from overseas. Google AdWords prohibits advertising them within Australia. With the scientific evidence, plus the stacks of anecdotal evidence from people claiming to have been able to quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes when other methods such as cold turkey and nicotine patches did not work, the organisations that restrict awareness of e-cigarettes and discourage their use as good as have blood on their hands.
2. How did you work out what your passion is?
As a child I watched my favourite aunt die from cancer caused by smoking. Another aunt died for the same pointless reason just a couple of years ago. I’m a former smoker myself so I know how excruciatingly hard it is to quit. And it isn’t just my family that’s suffering: cigarettes kill over 5 million people every year. It is my dream and my passion that cigarettes will become a relic of the past in my lifetime. They’re not only deadly, with the invention of the electronic alternative they’re decidedly outdated – they need to go the way of the dodo.
People need to know that they have a better choice. I’m working toward a future where nobody even has to ask “what’s an electronic cigarette?” I’m not naïve: I know that some smokers won’t even want to try them for whatever personal reasons. And of those that do, it may not help them to quit, because no smoking cessation aid is 100% effective. But the more people who know, the more people will try, and of those that do, some will be converted and not be dependent on tobacco anymore. The numbers cigarette addicts will go down, and thus so will smoking-related diseases and deaths; that is a mathematical certainty. It is going to happen, it’s just a question of when. My purpose is to make the inevitable happen as fast as possible.
3. What choices have you made to embrace and pursue your passion in your life and what sacrifices has this required?
At the end of last year, I gave up my job as the head of copywriting at one of Sydney’s most successful online marketing agencies to focus full time on my electronic cigarette business. It was at a significant loss of personal income, to the extent that I have since moved to live a nomadic travelling lifestyle in Southeast Asia where it costs about a quarter as much to live as it does in Sydney. It was difficult to leave my job, my friends and especially my boyfriend behind – very much a deliberate “burn the boats to take the island” strategy. I miss my old life, but my mission is enough to sustain me through any tough or lonely times.
4. What has been the outcome of making those choices, both positive and negative?
I have gained the freedom to do what I really want to do with my life, and enough time to do it in. It was highly draining to have to juggle full-time work with a one-woman marketing campaign for electronic cigarettes. I would stay up til 3am most mornings researching and writing and replying to customer emails, so I was pretty worn and stressed out by the time I figured out I had to either quit my job, or give up on my mission, or try to keep doing both and go crazy. Now I am much healthier, both physically and mentally.
On the other side of the coin, I have given up my old life of office camaraderie and the personal relationships I had built over the years in Sydney. I still keep in touch with my boyfriend and my friends via email and online chat but it’s not the same as seeing them face-to-face. I hope to go back to visit soon, and eventually return on a permanent basis. In the meantime I focus on the positive aspect that I have the opportunity to travel and experience a few different cultures. I have spent some time in Bali, Malaysia and Singapore so far and am planning to spend a few weeks in Vietnam soon and hopefully Thailand after that.
Another challenging part of my mission is the ongoing condemnation of electronic cigarettes by certain groups, some of which I have already mentioned. It’s emotionally difficult to be on the “wrong side” of what’s generally reported by the media because people think you are some kind of nutjob or at least disingenuous. In 2012 and prior, it seemed that nearly every piece of journalism relating to e-cigarettes had a negative spin: they may be unsafe, there haven’t been enough studies done, they’re not approved by the government, etc, etc.
This line of reasoning is ridiculous – how can anyone discourage something that “may be” unsafe when there’s no proof that it is, and especially when the alternative (smoking) has been proven to be so much worse? It’s like saying “Don’t drive an electric car because it may be unsafe for the environment – we can’t provide any evidence of that, by the way. But we still think that if you have to use a car, you should stick to driving a gas-powered vehicle that’s been proven to cause environmental harm.”
Fortunately, 2013 has seen a few articles by well-known publications such as Forbes that show that media and public sentiment are beginning to turn toward the positive. The reports about e-cigarettes are becoming more balanced, which is very encouraging if it keeps up because how the media chooses to report on an issue has a huge impact on how people perceive it.